The Trailbabies Story

Let me tell you about how the Trailbabies Network was born, and, a bit further down the page, what it has to do with you and your children.

The story begins with a few families in Christchurch, New Zealand, but the Trailbabies Network is now steadily spreading out to other areas in the world – and no matter where you live, if you would like that to happen, it will come to you as well!

So here is the Trailbabies story for you – or, since this story very much continues to be written, at least what has happened so far:

When our son Loki was born, it was pretty clear to me that we would continue doing hiking trips, and that of course we would be taking him with us.

The thought of leaving him with relatives or a babysitter when going into the bush and mountains honestly never even crossed my mind. I just anticipated that we would have to learn new know-how and skills to add to our hiking experience, and was not expecting that to be any more difficult than, say, to learn hiking in the first place.

Living in New Zealand where tramping, the Kiwi word for hiking, is pretty much a national sport and favourite recreation activity, I assumed that I would just have to contact some of the dozen or so tramping clubs that exist in Christchurch alone, and surely they would be able to give us some pointers and mentoring to have an easy start into our family hiking future, or at least put us in touch with other tramping families.

I called and sent out emails to many clubs. To my big surprise, they all answered in the same way: “We are not able to give you advice on how to do tramping trips with young children, and we also don’t know anyone who is doing that.” I was shocked!

Despite this I was absolutely sure there were families out there who were already doing what we wanted to learn. Maybe they were doing their own thing outside of hiking clubs? Many people do their outdoor activities on their own terms, just like I myself had not been active in any club.

So when Lindsay and I went for short walks or day trips with Loki, I began to put up flyers in the trail head car parks that read: “We want to do tramping trips with our toddler, and are looking for like minded families to do walks together with. Please email us if you’re interested.”

Pretty soon I got an email from a couple with two children, then two and five years old, who were in exactly the same situation as us, and were glad that they were not the only ones! After a few weeks, half a dozen families had contacted me, and we decided to meet for a little walk in the Port Hills at the outskirts of Christchurch to get to know each other and make plans.

That first little walk was a very exciting day. On the way to the trailhead I was wondering if anyone was actually going to show up, and what kind of people they might be. When we arrived, there were a few very friendly families in the car park, with children running all over the place already and playing hide and seek in the bushes. It was truly awesome to meet these other families, because I knew that it meant we were about to start a really cool adventure for all of us!

We just started walking and chatting on that day, from that car park – and essentially, that’s what we have been doing ever since.

That was in early 2009. It’s Christmas 2013 as I am writing this, and today a few dozen families are part of the Christchurch Trailbabies. We still have not formally formed a club and probably won’t, because we rather spend the time we have on the trails than with paperwork and meetings. What we do have is a pretty efficient way of communicating, as well as deciding and preparing new trips, and we are doing lots and lots of fantastic small and not so small walks every year.

And that’s where the story could end – but it doesn’t! This is the part that’s about you and your children.

At some point, I began receiving emails from people in different parts of the world, asking questions about hiking with children. I had posted a few contributions about the topic in a number of hiking related online forums, and through that they had found me when doing web searches in their quest to learn more about tramping with children.

Reading these emails from other families, two things really stood out for me: They often ask very similar questions, and they are exactly the same questions that we had when we were just starting out.

From our own experience, I very much understand how hard it can be to find the answers and solutions which, when put together, allow you to enjoy practical, safe, fun tramping trips together with your children. I know how much dedicated effort we had to put into solving all those little and bigger puzzles. I also realise how lucky we have been to have had the significant amount of time available to be able to do this in the first place, and that we had sufficient knowledge and skills as a solid basis for doing that kind of research safely.

Walking together with the Christchurch Trailbabies families has helped a lot, because you learn more and faster in a group of people who want to achieve the same thing.

At the same time, none of the other families had any more experience in tramping with children than we did at the time. It was a very interesting, fun, and successful journey that we had together, but if we would have been able to learn from experienced hiking families as mentors, we could have achieved the substantial level of knowledge and skill which we have today several years earlier. We could have enjoyed more and bigger hiking adventures with our children much sooner, and with the enormous peace of mind that only comes from knowing for absolutely sure that you know what you are doing, and are good at it.

Yes, if you do it carefully and really put your mind to it, you can work it all out by yourself – but if you can learn from someone who has real experience and skill not just in hiking, but in hiking with children, that will make your journey a whole lot easier than going it all alone, and you will get there much sooner. If we would have had the opportunity to do that when we started taking Loki with us on hiking trips, we would definitely have grabbed it with both hands!

Now you and your children can have the advantage of doing just that. I see the many benefits that tramping has both for children and their families all the time. We have the knowledge and the skills that are needed to make that happen now, and I want to share them with you.

I have created the Trailbabies Network so you can benefit from what we have worked out, learn in the most efficient and time saving way, get out there sooner, and enjoy fun and safe hiking trips with your children.

If this sounds like something you would enjoy, welcome on board! Find out how you can get started right now, and take your first step! Chances are that you will soon find yourself right in the middle of your new family tramping adventure, and you will congratulate yourself for embarking on this journey.

Wherever you are, I am looking forward to get to know you, and I wish you and your children many fantastic, fun, safe adventures on the trails.

Let’s find out how the Trailbabies Story continues – together!

With the very best wishes from Christchurch, New Zealand